OPINION: Time for a Pardon for Elor Azaria, and an End to a Bizarre Affair

YERUSHALAYIM -
Azaria
Sgt. Elor Azaria leaving the courtroom Sunday with his father Charlie, following his appeal at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv. (Flash90)

There are two parts to the story of Elor Azaria. The first part is that of a vile terrorist who came to shoot Israeli soldiers. The army failed in that it allowed such a person to emerge from the incident alive. They admit this within the army, as well, in relation to this incident and all others like it, such as the one which occurred in Chalamish 10 days ago.

The second part of the story: The killing of the terrorist after the attack had already ended and he was lying helpless on the ground. The fact that the soldiers at the scene initially did not finish off the terrorist in the course of neutralizing him, did not entitle anyone arriving afterwards, even if only by a few minutes, to do so.

Elor Azaria is a young man, a fine soldier, who erred in the performance of his duty in a stressful situation. It was the kind of mistake that occurs in combat and warfare, under stress, which is usually forgiven.

The uproar over the Azaria case was unnecessary. The persecution of the soldier by senior military officials was a serious mistake that caused much divisiveness.

Most Israelis did not agree with the IDF chief and the military judges, even if in legal terms there was more than one way to view the case.

Elor, his mother, father and the rest of his family underwent a year-long nightmare of legal persecution. The military took an unfortunate event, and under outside pressure, based on purely political considerations, allowed itself to become entangled in an affair that should have been handled within a few weeks.

Azaria’s first defense counsel could also have contributed to a speedy conclusion to the saga. Both sides, with a greater measure of judgment and far-sightedness, could have spared Azaria and the IDF much anguish.

But now the time has come to put an end to this whole tragedy. The IDF chief has to put aside his prestige, even if he feels wounded by things that were said about him, and pardon the soldier who has already been punished sufficiently for an entire year. It is still possible to correct the travesty, and the travesty here is great.

It is hard to understand what drove the IDF to pursue the matter to such an extreme, at the expense of this particular soldier. I have not seen those same military officials who came out against Azaria ever treat any senior officers this way, who in some cases did things that should not have been done.

At the expense of Elor they want to prove their toughness? Through him they want to educate the public? No. The public doesn’t accept it. If it had been up to the people, he would have been freed a long time ago.

It is also hard to understand the sea of verbiage that the judges let loose for hours, when it should have taken minutes.

Elor Azaria should be pardoned immediately. We have to be released from this wretched story and all the suffering he has gone through.